Major upgrades in works for UI campus

Major upgrades in works for UI campus

URBANA — Two buildings on the engineering campus will get major renovations totaling almost $75 million — including a pedestrian "smart bridge" connecting two civil engineering laboratories — under projects moving ahead at the University of Illinois.

UI trustees will be asked this week to approve designs for the renovation and expansion for the 1940s-era Mechanical Engineering Building, 1206 W. Green St,. U, near the corner of Green and Goodwin Avenue; and the Civil Engineering Hydrosystems Lab, 205 N. Mathews Ave., U, southeast of the Beckman Institute.

The price of the Mechanical Engineering Building project will also go up, from about $35.6 million to $41 million, if trustees sign off on the project Thursday in Urbana.

Mike Bass, senior associate vice president and deputy comptroller, said the $5.56 million increase will accommodate masonry repairs and tuckpointing; replacement of the roof, windows and heating and air-conditioning systems; and other items, including furniture for classrooms. He said the original estimates for portions of the project were incorrect, and the cost of some items increased over time.

Officials said the current building has outdated facilities and lacks sufficient space for the department's program needs. The renovation will provide state-of-the-art teaching labs, "active learning classrooms," a design commons, senior design studio and student collaboration spaces.

A big driver was a $12 million gift announced in 2015 from UI engineering alumnus Sidney Lu of Taiwan, the first chairman and CEO of Foxconn Interconnect Technology, which recently announced plans for a huge new manufacturing facility in Wisconsin.

His gift will fund the Sidney Lu Center for Learning and Innovation, a sleek four-story addition that will go up at the corner of Green and Goodwin and provide a new main entrance for the building.

The original building, which opened in 1946, covers a little over 66,000 square feet. It will expand to nearly 100,000 square feet with the addition.

Architects from HED said the design will continue the building's brick, stone and glass exterior but in a more "forward-looking, contemporary way," with a mix of glass facades and sunscreens to cut down on energy costs. The building's mechanical systems will also be exposed so they can be used as a learning lab for engineering students.

The project will use about $9.1 million in university institutional funds, which includes overhead from external grants, royalties on UI inventions and other income. But the majority is being paid for with gifts and other outside funding, including the gift from Lu.

Construction is scheduled to start next May and wrap up by December 2019.

The $33.57 million renovation and addition to the Civil Engineering Hydrosystems Lab, which opened in 1967, will provide a connection over West Main Street to the Newmark Civil Engineering Lab to the south through a pedestrian bridge. The third-floor bridge will provide seating areas for students and faculty to collaborate and a connection to an alumni center at Newmark.

The department will also use the "smart bridge" as a teaching tool, installing sensors to monitor its movement and teach students about the effects of dynamic forces on infrastructure, officials said.

Curves in the design of the bridge are meant to evoke the lab's purpose and iconic water tower, visible from the outside, said project manager Rodney Reid of Reifsteck Reid architects. Formidable buttresses at either end of the bridge were designed to make a statement about the stability and strength of the department, he said.

Architects wanted to give the entire building a "wavy facade," he said, but that idea was dropped after consultation with the Chancellor's Design Advisory Committee. They did add curved awnings, or sunshades, as well as copper patina accents, to mimic the color and flow of water, he said. The design also includes a water feature outside.

The project will more than double office space in the building and provide hands-on instructional labs, new classrooms and an elevator to comply with accessibility requirements. Total space will expand by 13,000 square feet, to 43,669.

Work on the project is set to begin in October 2018 and be completed by June 2020.

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CommonSenseless wrote on September 07, 2017 at 11:09 am

A "smart" bridge over a dead end street doesn't sound so smart... how about a bridge over Springfield between Grainger Lib and DCL.  Or a stop light for pedestrians.